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Amanda Lee

 

J’liyah Dudley, 6, Darieona Kelly, 11, Jaybrielle Dudley, 8, Kylley Hayes, 8, watch the Spirit of ‘76 firework family night show

From left, J’liyah Dudley, 6, Darieona Kelly, 11, Jaybrielle Dudley, 8, and Kylley Hayes, 8, watch the Spirit of ‘76 firework family night show on Saturday at the Midway exit. The family night showcases the 47 products that the Spirit of ‘76 sells.


Local
A few places to see fireworks in Columbia and beyond
 07.03.19

Here is a sampling of Fourth of July celebrations Thursday in the Columbia area:

What: 67th annual Fire in the Sky.

Where: Lucky’s Market, 111 S. Providence Road, and Flat Branch Park, 101 S. Fourth St.

When: Live music and food trucks start at 6:30 p.m.; children’s inflatables and crafts at Flat Branch Park. Fireworks begin about 9:15 p.m., choreographed to music that will air on KBXR/102.3 FM.

Do: Bring a blanket or lawn chair.

Don’t: Bring your own fireworks, alcohol or grills — they’re not allowed.

Parking: City meters are free on the holiday, and city and MU lots are free unless they’re marked closed or restricted with “Parking Enforced 24/7” signs.

Streets closing: Walking and bicycling is encouraged, but if you drive, watch for the following street closures:

1 p.m., Fourth Street from Locust to Cherry streets.

3 p.m., Second Street southbound and Cherry Street westbound to Providence Road.

7 p.m., Locust Street from Providence to Fifth Street.

8:30 p.m., Providence from Elm Street to Broadway.

Outside Columbia

Jefferson City

What: Salute to America.

Where: Downtown Jefferson City.

When: Events throughout the day (salutetoamerica.org), including kids’ games, live music, food, tours of the Capitol and other historic sites and fireworks starting about 9:40 p.m.

Rocheport

What: 4th of July Fireworks & 4 Hands at the A-Frame.

Where: Les Bourgeois Vineyards A-Frame, 14020 W. Highway BB, Rocheport.

When: Live music and 4 Hands Brewing Co. Tap Takeover at noon; barbecue, 3-8 p.m.; bounce house for kids, 2-7 p.m.; fireworks after dark.

Centralia

What: Centralia 4th of July Celebration.

Where: Centralia City Park, 921 E. Head St., Centralia.

When: Events throughout the day, including the ringing of the bells at 10 a.m., games for kids and a disc golf tournament. Evening activities start at 5 p.m., including an outdoor concert at 6 p.m., presentation of the colors at 8:30 p.m. and fireworks at dusk.


How grassroots partnerships are working toward long-term food security
 
 07.03.19

FOOD INSECURITY: PART 3

Solving hunger should be as simple as the slice, smear and crunch of an apple with peanut butter. And in some ways, it is — for even a moment, a snack, a meal, takes care of the stomach’s rumble.

But the wider problem of food insecurity, or the inability to consistently access nutritious food, is anything but. The real solution, if a single one exists, is as multilayered as the problem. For Jen Wood, research and development officer at the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, the fix requires two movements: getting hungry people fed today, and addressing the interlacing systems that led them there.

“There’s that immediate need, and then there’s that long-term need,” Wood said. “Immediately, (people) need help right now, and food is something that can’t wait.”

Dotted across the country, community-sized, grassroots programs have cropped up to address both needs. They’re not one-size-fits-all, but they offer postures as well as paradigms:

  • A job skills program that begins with a sack lunch and ends with employment for residents of extended-stays in Branson.
  • A “community food resource center” in Indiana that blends meals, workshops and advocacy (along with a book club that feeds the belly and the brain).
  • Small corner stores in Kansas City where, as if overnight, fruits and vegetables appear near shelves stocked with chips and candy.

These projects exist within the context of a long-standing anti-hunger movement.

The first Food Stamp Program began in 1939 in an attempt to connect surplus food with unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. The program, deemed no longer necessary when both conditions decreased, disbanded in 1943, only to return for good in the 1960s. The decade yielded more conversations and change across the country.

The first food bank, St. Mary’s, was founded in 1967 in Phoenix by the man who would eventually create the national charitable food network now known as Feeding America. A year later, CBS broadcast a documentary called “Hunger in America,” which seared watchers’ eyes with the faces of malnourished American children.

Then, in 1969, former President Richard Nixon addressed the issue with Congress: “That hunger and malnutrition should persist in a land such as ours is embarrassing and intolerable. But it is an exceedingly complex problem, not at all susceptible to fast or easy solutions.”

Changes among larger-scale institutions take time. The ongoing reinvention of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic charitable food network, offers a case study.

In 2012, the network of 200 food banks created a framework with which to categorize and advocate healthy foods, or “foods to encourage” — like fresh produce, whole grains and dairy. The movement marked a departure from the system’s original fare: often processed, shelf-stable foods, some of which have now been associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity.

The shift trickled down. Now, more than 60% of the food The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri provides to local agencies each year are those “foods to encourage.”

Not only have certain foods gone out of fashion but also certain words. Lately, the team at the food bank in Columbia has been wrestling with rhetoric — how they speak and write about the people with whom they work. They’ve stopped calling the people served by the pantries “clients.” At Central Pantry in Columbia, they’ve changed their signs from “member” and “household” to “people” and “family.”

“A lot of people might say, ‘It’s just the word,’” Eric Maly, director of programs, said. “But I do think that language matters sometimes.”

It’s a subtle shift, but one that addresses the way people sometimes think about those at the receiving end of charity.

“Let’s start viewing people as people,” Sean Ross, who manages the pantry, wrote in an email.

Chase Wyckwood works alongside Maly and Ross as the volunteer engagement coordinator, and he’s been contemplating the food bank’s posture toward volunteers, and vice versa. Words like “community service” and “service learning” carry their own connotations.

“The language ... creates a limit to what we can do and how people see themselves in solving the issue,” he said.

Instead, he prefers words that reflect a long-term approach to service, which more accurately represents what’s required in addressing food insecurity.

“‘Civically minded’ is a perspective on life and a paradigm through which they live their life, whereas a ‘volunteer’ is an opportunity that you take, and you get something and they get something,” Wyckwood said. “But civically minded individuals aim to achieve goals in the systemic realm of the issue.”

As it turns out, these civically minded people exist not only within the emergency food system, but all over. Their creative models at work in other parts of the state and country are small, local and committed to relationship; they thrive on community partnerships and coming together to a table where all are welcome and around which no room exists for “us” and “them.”

Jesus Was Homeless

For close to nine months of the year, Branson swells from a rural community of nearly 11,000 to a vacationers’ enclave that hosts tens of thousands of tourists each day. But in January, February and March, the town recedes; during its hibernation, the unemployment rate more than doubles. The housekeepers, busboys, waiters, cooks, technicians, ushers and ticket-takers who work quietly behind the scenes during high season return home, many to extended-stay motels without kitchens, many jobless, to wait for the next surge.

“They are people that have moved to Branson looking for a job and a fresh start, or they are people that have been here for a long time and have just not got ahead,” Bryan Stallings, who works alongside these people, said.

Their prospects are further limited by location. Branson sits among the Ozarks; the terrain makes building expensive, so affordable housing — especially housing close to the jobs — is tough to find. To make matters worse, Branson lacks a robust public transportation system.

“From a poverty standpoint or a hunger standpoint, we have the perfect storm here,” Stallings said.

Stallings moved to Branson in 1987 — before “60 Minutes” helped make Branson an international destination, before more than 8 million tourists began funneling into the town each year, before the recession hit and growth slowed.

It wasn’t until 2005 that he and his wife, as a lesson to their teenage children (“hoping to instill in them that they needed to serve and that they could quit complaining”), decided to help serve a Thanksgiving meal at a local church. Not long after, the church ended up selling its building. The family looked for another opportunity and didn’t find one. So, in 2008, the Stallingses decided to host their own.

Once they began passing out flyers, they learned about the extended-stay motels — 25 of them, many with people living there long term. For that initial dinner, close to 50 people showed up.

“We were able to just sit down and talk with them and hear their stories and discovered that they were just like you and I,” Stallings said.

The only difference, he found, was that many had a poverty of resources.

He and his wife created Jesus Was Homeless, which became a nonprofit in 2009. They started out with only their home kitchen and a membership at Sam’s Club. They picked one motel where they knew people were living and began delivering sack lunches each week. That first year, they passed out 11,000 lunches.

These days, Jesus Was Homeless works to be a relational, people-first and partnership-centric endeavor that uses a sack lunch only as a point of entry — and it serves more than 1,000 of them each week. But food is secondary.

“One sack lunch meal a week is not going to sustain them or eliminate their food insecurity, but it allows us to step into their life,” Stallings said.

The bigger commitment is employment.

In 2013, they created a local chapter of Jobs for Life, a faith-based program that teaches people how to be more employable so they can get — and keep — a job. In the classes, which run two evenings a week for nine weeks, they learn everything from interview skills to conflict resolution and résumé-building to how to practice good hygiene. New classes begin every 10 weeks.

“The only way for people to climb out of poverty is employment,” Stallings said.

And it works. Since 2013, more than 180 people have graduated from the Jobs for Life program. About 3 out of 4 of those graduates now work full time, and more than half have moved from the streets or motels to a permanent home.

One of the central tenets of the Jobs for Life program and others that Jesus Was Homeless offers is the idea that “there’s dignity and value in working,” Stallings said.

They’ve created a rewards program where people can volunteer in exchange for points they can then use to purchase goods like food, furniture, shoes and clothing.

“We don’t hand things out,” Stallings said.

The points come in the form of a gift card, which they can use in the thrift store or cafe that the program operates. About 40 to 50 new volunteers show up each month on the point system.

“We just see, over and over and over again, how their dignity and value stays intact,” he said.

The model requires ongoing partnership between community members, and it takes time to build.

“Because trust has to be earned before people will let you come alongside them, it can literally take years before you see any results,” Stallings wrote in an email. “It’s really hard to watch people self-destruct before they are willing to move forward, and success is far and few between.”

As with all nonprofits, finding the money is another challenge — especially a sustainable source of it.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve learned is that most people have a hard time supporting organizations that try to empower adults, versus kids and puppies,” Stallings wrote. “The problem is that, if we don’t teach the adults how ‘to fish,’ they pass it down to the next generation.”

The Jesus Was Homeless model, Stallings said, can be replicated anywhere. His advice is simple: “Find a need. Find out what the need is for the folks in poverty, and then start hanging out with them, getting to know them, building life with them, and then start to plug them into job opportunities.”

After all, that part — that shared-life part — is what matters most, Stallings said.

“The No. 1 thing we hear is by partnering with them and not trying to fix them, they feel valued and they don’t feel judged,” Stallings said. “When you can build relationship, it takes a while — it takes trust. It’s a win for everybody involved.”

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard

A book club isn’t normally elevated as a panacea for food insecurity. But “A Readable Feast,” which meets four times a year in Bloomington, Indiana, might have the ingredients for one.

It’s small and new, with about nine people per gathering; a product of local partnership between the food pantry, which provides the space and cooking material, and the public library, which provides the books. The club also embraces cooking education and meal sharing, so after everyone discusses the book, they make and eat a related food.

Members walk away with brain and belly fed. The most recent read? “Bento Box in the Heartland,” a food memoir by Linda Furiya.

The program is the brainchild of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, a “community food resource center” with a social justice frame. The “Hub” is guided by the understanding that access to healthy food is a basic human right. It operates a low-barrier, grocery-store-style food pantry, which serves as an entry point into its other focuses: a community garden, a tool-share program that works like checking out books at the library, nutrition education and advocacy.

Most of its programs echo the feeling of the book club. They’re meant to “engage with people around food,” said Alissa Weiss, education coordinator for the Hub. Not only that, they’re meant to be deeply relational. They address a little-discussed component of food insecurity: loneliness.

“Strong community relationships protect against food insecurity,” said Hannah Lencheck, the Hub’s advocacy coordinator. Numerous studies affirm a connection between poverty and social isolation.

Bloomington is the seat of Monroe County in Indiana, which has the second highest food insecurity rate in the state: 16.8% , according to the most recent Map the Meal Gap study.

Like Columbia, it’s a college town, home to about 85,000 people. When it comes to food insecurity, Bloomington’s story is less about the availability of good food and more about barriers to accessing it. The high cost of living, including less-than-affordable housing prices, can make it hard for locals to regularly come by healthy meals, Lencheck said.

In 2014, the Hub kick-started its advocacy program in an attempt to address those root causes while also creating space for relationship through civic engagement. Since then, though the path included much trial-and-error, it has honed its advocacy focus to a few key programs that take place year-round.

“There’s a traditional way of doing advocacy that can be very effective but often perpetuates traditional power structures,” she said. At the Hub, they work toward “putting power in the hands of folks who are most directly affected by hunger.”

From May to October, the Hub hosts a monthly “farm stand,” sort of like a farmers market, where people can set up shop, sell homemade food and crafts and pad their wallets.

Come election season, whether it be local, state or national, the Hub helps people get registered to vote. In 2016, nearly 60 were registered through the advocacy program. In 2018, it was closer to 100.

Then, as Indiana’s legislative session gears up, the Hub holds monthly dinners where people can gather to learn about which bills have been filed, how to personally connect with a legislator and how to share their stories in a compelling way, among other lessons.

“We do community building and training with folks all in the context of a really warm atmosphere,” Lencheck said. “We’re sitting down at a table with people over polenta and salad.”

The experience is more qualitative than quantitative, so figuring out which measurements of success matter is an ongoing conversation. Rather than focus on the pounds of food it distributes, it uses opt-in surveys and casual conversations to find out if what it’s doing is helpful and if it’s working toward reducing the need for the pantry.

“Learning to live with a little bit of that ambiguity is part of the process,” Lencheck said.

Another part of the process involves listening. It’s a posture it takes in all its programming, Weiss said. In addition to the book club, the Hub offers three or four cooking workshops a month, weekly gardening and cooking programs for kids, and other opportunities for nutrition education, like “tabling” at the food pantry. That’s where it hands out free food samples and seeds to plant, teach people how to compost or grow microgreens, things like that.

All of these programs are a shared-learning opportunity, Weiss said, because other people “in the room may have information to pass along, and sometimes that’s the most valuable experience.” And that’s how she recommends replicating the Hub’s model in other communities — asking questions about the need and about interest then listening to the answers.

“It needs to start with a conversation,” she said.

Kanbe’s Markets

In his essay “Wide Hats and Narrow Minds,” evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote of the wanderings of Albert Einstein’s brain, which had been extracted for research after his death. Gould was decidedly unconcerned about its whereabouts and about the results of the science done upon it: “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

“It’s a weird quote,” Max Kaniger said, but it gives his work momentum.

If he can help create a system where more people can thrive, he will: “I sincerely believe that there are smarter and more talented people than I am that are just stuck working super hard to put food on the table and are not able to live and succeed. … As a result, we’re all worse off.”

Kaniger, 28, is the founder and executive director of Kanbe’s Markets, a nonprofit food distributor that provides access to healthy foods in Kansas City’s food deserts.

Right now, Kanbe’s operates mostly among black communities east of Troost Avenue, where grocery stores and supermarkets are scarce. One local, black-owned store, Leon’s Thriftway, closed in May after nearly 51 years in business; to help fill the gap, Kanbe’s began operating in a corner store at the end of the block.

The grocery business is a hard industry, Kaniger said, especially in low-income neighborhoods, and especially these days, when competition comes from online retailers like Amazon.

Kaniger’s model is simple ... and one he said he hopes to replicate in other communities. Kanbe’s provides daily, fresh produce to local corner stores that already exist in these neighborhoods. It started in 2018, and by the time of publication, it’s up to 10 corner stores, all of which accept SNAP dollars, formerly called food stamps — with more than 10 on a waiting list.

Its is a consignment model, and here’s how it works: Kaniger and his team rescue or receive produce from local wholesalers, especially produce that otherwise would’ve been thrown out. They sort and stock only the best on shelves they’ve purchased and installed then work with local farmers to compost what’s left over. At the end of each week, Kanbe’s tallies up what’s been sold and shares a portion of the profits with the local store owner.

So far, it’s earned each of its stores about $5,000-$10,000 in profits per year.

Because Kaniger’s focus is to absorb any risk to the store owners and keep things as simple as possible, the distribution model can be expensive. First, there’s the refrigerated truck to purchase (its cost about $35,000, and recurring upkeep like maintenance and repairs adds about $15,000 per year). Gas alone is hundreds of dollars a week.

Ultimately, the truck is one piece in the process.

Kanbe’s 2019 operating budget is just under $500,000, with around 60% of the funding sourced from grants, 20% from profits split with the corner stores and 20% from donors. The goal is to minimize the money coming from grants and create a sustainable revenue stream from corner store profits and donations.

But the money is, as usual, only one complication. Selling fresh produce is trickier than selling candy, chips and other convenience store staples. The shelf life is short — each piece stays ripe for only so long before going bad.

“Whereas a bag of chips, you just put on the shelves. ... It still will sell eventually,” Kaniger said.

Finally, there’s buy-in from the local store owners, although as word spreads, that’s getting easier. One group that’s been especially welcoming is the grandmothers, Kaniger said. They’re the ones who know how to cook the produce, and they’re the ones who endear Kanbe’s to the community: “Elderly women are the best people in the world.”

At the end of the day, the cornerstone of the model is local partnerships and letting the people in the surrounding neighborhoods lead the way.

And, for Kaniger, that social exchange that happens around food in a corner store contains the same themes as a Thanksgiving meal. It’s relational, intimate, food-centered and barrier-breaking. And that, he said, is “the whole point.”

“For me, it’s more about food as a tool — as a resource to bring people together.”

There are more than 600 of these small corner stores east of Troost Avenue that already accept SNAP. Kanbe’s vision statement is to harness enough of their distribution channels so “Kansas City becomes the first city in America where food insecurity is not a problem.”

“I do not believe that Kanbe’s is the best end-all, be-all to our food system,” Kaniger said. “I do believe it is the best end-all, be-all to our food system that we’ve come up with so far.”

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Missed Part 2? Read it here.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.


Local
Police, sheriff's department hope to prevent annual fireworks war
 Katharine Finnerty  / 
 07.03.19

Columbia residents for decades have been holding annual fireworks wars on the Fourth of July.

But this year is going to be different.

Ahmonta Harris was the organizer of the wars for about the past 10 years. Harris, however, was shot and killed in November. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department said at the time that he had “unlawfully” entered a residence when the occupant shot him.

That leaves the people who want to participate in a fireworks war without a leader.

Matt Akins of Citizens for Justice said people who were close to Harris want to keep the fireworks war going in his honor, and he said he’s sure there will be people somewhere shooting fireworks at each other. Akins has published several videos about the wars.

Akins said Harris’ family or his friends might help mediate the war, but he’s not sure that will happen.

“Is there going to be someone who’s going to step in and be a mediating force that makes sure it doesn’t get out of control like Ahmonta did?” Akins asked. “I think that’s the million-dollar question.”

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia Police Department have been collaborating on how to respond to fireworks-related complaints — and particularly any fireworks war that breaks out.

Detective Tom O’Sullivan said the goal is for all residents to have a fun and safe holiday.

“There will be deputies on patrol,” O’Sullivan said. “We assume we will be getting calls about fireworks.”

Neither Interim Police Chief Geoff Jones nor Sheriff Dwayne Carey responded to requests for comment from the Missourian. They said in a joint interview with KFRU’s Mark Mills in June that the departments will be working together on Independence Day.

Jones said in the KFRU interview that deputies and police officers will be riding in the same cars.

Carey said the departments are trying to be proactive to prevent any fireworks war rather than simply responding if and when it happens. One of their strategies has been to pass out flyers in certain neighborhoods about the illegality and dangers of fireworks.

“We’re able to get together and communicate and form a proactive plan on what we’re going to do to try to keep this from occurring,” Carey said.

The fireworks war for years happened in Columbia’s Derby Ridge neighborhood but last year moved to Demaret Drive, just outside the city limits, when police promised they would be arresting anyone involved. Even possessing fireworks other than sparklers is illegal in the city. The county, however, has no fireworks regulations.

Carey was adamant after last year’s episode that he would not allow it to happen again.

“We have 364 days to address this problem, and if I have to take all 150 members of this department, we’ll arrest everyone that’s involved next year,” Carey told KMIZ last July.

It is illegal under Missouri statute 320.151 to throw fireworks at another person or a car.

“I’m interested to see if he follows through,” Akins said about the sheriff’s comment. “One thing I have to give (the Columbia Police Department) props on is the fact that they have handled the war from a community policing approach, and that has seemed to work.”

Akins said an “iron fist” approach would only cause more problems.

The Columbia Police Department said in news release that Columbia residents should “leave the fireworks to the professionals this Fourth of July and attend the free Fire in the Sky event in downtown Columbia.”

Akins said that he couldn’t saywhere or how big the fireworks war will be this year.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


Local
People seek entry to medical marijuana business in Columbia
 garris23  / 
 07.03.19

Operating under names like Green Releaf Dispensary and CoMo Gro, 25 businesses and individuals have paid thousands of dollars in application fees for the chance to operate a medical marijuana facility in Columbia.

Entrepreneurs filed paperwork and paid fees to apply for 22 dispensary licenses, six cultivation licenses and three manufacturing licenses in Columbia, according to records from the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

The hopefuls looking to enter the marijuana market include businesses already involved in cannabis-related retail in the city, such as American Shaman and Grass Roots Smoke Shop, as well as newcomers to the industry. Fifteen of the applicants had Columbia mailing addresses.

Two people — Shruti Patel and Adam Fuchs — have filed paperwork seeking to operate all three types of facilities in Columbia. Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Businesses will not be able to file formal applications to sell marijuana until Aug. 3, but more than 500 people statewide have already paid their application fee in advance of the application date.

Paying the fee — $6,000 for dispensary and manufacturer applications and $10,000 for cultivator applications — is the first step toward competing for a share of the lucrative medical marijuana business in Missouri, which could grow into a $480 million a year industry, according to the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association.

The state has already collected $3.9 million in application fees and is expected to begin licensing businesses by the end of the year.

Current medical marijuana rules allow licenses for 192 dispensaries, 86 infused-product facilities and 60 cultivation facilities, which would be dispersed across eight regions in the state, as reported by the Missourian.

The list of people and businesses who have paid the pre-filed license application fees was first obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The news organization attempted to obtain the information from the state through a public records request, and, when that failed, it filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s authority to keep the records closed.

A Cole County judge ruled in favor of the Post-Dispatch on June 21, and the department released the records to the news organization Tuesday afternoon.

The Missourian obtained the records Wednesday.

Jill Wren of Columbia said Wednesday she decided to seek a permit to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the city due, in part, to the death of a friend, Nichelle Lawrence.

She said Lawrence, who died in 2016, suffered from multiple sclerosis and used cannabis for medical reasons.

“It was a hard, hard road for her,” Wren said. “One of the only ways she could get through the day was by using cannabis.”

Wren said she relied on her family for help navigating the regulations surrounding the burgeoning industry. Wren said her father is a pharmacist and her brother developed software for the cannabis industry in Colorado.

Wren said she was also a member of the conference-organizing committee for the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association, which has connected her with professionals in the industry.

Wren said she was still working on a location for the dispensary.

Brad Beard said he and his two sons applied for a license, though they feared they would be beaten out by well-financed companies from Colorado and California.

The Beards own and operate American Shaman, a Columbia shop that sells CBD oil, which is extracted from cannabis. He said the business has been very successful, and he hoped the family’s experience in the CBD industry would give them an edge.

Beard said if they did not get a license, they would have to eat the cost of the $6,000 application fee, but the chance to get into the marijuana market at the very beginning was worth the risk.

“If you get picked, you are going to be well, well off,” he said.

Supervising editor is Olivia Garrett.